WFAA, virtual channel and VHF digital channel 8, is an ABC-affiliated television station serving the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex that is licensed to Dallas, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Tegna Media subsidiary of Tegna, Inc. WFAA maintains offices and primary studio facilities located at the WFAA Communications Center Studios on 606 Young Street in downtown Dallas (next to the offices of its former sister newspaper under the ownership of former parent company Belo, The Dallas Morning News), and operates a secondary studio facility – which is used for the production of WFAA's newscasts and also houses certain other business operations handled by the station – located at the Victory Park development, near Olive and Houston Streets (next to the American Airlines Center) in central Dallas; the station maintains transmitter facilities located south of Belt Line Road in Cedar Hill.
WFAA is the largest ABC-affiliated station by market size that is not owned and operated by the network through its ABC Owned Television Stations subsidiary, and the largest affiliate of any of the "Big Four" television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) that is not owned by that respective network; it is also one of only two television stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth market (along with CW affiliate KDAF (channel 33), which is owned by Tribune Broadcasting) that is not owned by the corporate parent of its affiliated network.
The initial application for the television station was filed on October 23, 1944, when local businessman Karl Hoblitzelle, owner of movie theater chain Interstate Circuit Theatres, applied with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to obtain a construction permit and license to operate a television station on VHF channel 8; it was the first such license application for a television station in the Southern United States. Hoblitzelle planned to operate the station out of the Republic Bank building in downtown Dallas, and even conducted a closed-circuit television broadcast of the opening of one of his properties, the Wilshire Theatre. Texas oil magnate Tom Potter filed a separate application for the Channel 8 license and was ultimately awarded the permit over Hoblitzelle.
The station first signed on the air at 8:00 p.m. on September 17, 1949 as KBTV, with a fifteen-minute ceremony inaugurating the launch of Channel 8 as its first broadcast; KBTV broadcast for one hour that evening, with the remainder of its initial schedule consisting of its first locally produced program, the variety series Dallas in Wonderland. Potter founded and operated the station under the Lacy-Potter TV Broadcasting Company, which he partially controlled. It was the third television station to sign on in Texas (behind WBAP-TV (channel 5, now KXAS-TV) in nearby Fort Worth, which signed on almost one year earlier on September 29, 1948; and KLEE-TV (now KPRC-TV) in Houston, which debuted in February 1949), the second station in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and the first to be licensed to Dallas. The station originally operated from studio facilities located at Harry Hines Boulevard and Wolf Street, north of downtown Dallas.
When the station commenced its full schedule on September 18, KBTV had broadcast for only four hours of programming per day. It originally operated as a primary affiliate of the DuMont Television Network and a secondary affiliate of the short-lived Paramount Television Network; under the arrangement, through an agreement between Lacy-Potter and Paramount Pictures, the station agreed to air 4.75 hours of Paramount Television's programming each week during 1949. KBTV, NBC affiliate WBAP-TV and CBS affiliate KRLD-TV (channel 4, now Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW) – the latter of which was also licensed to Dallas and signed on three months later on December 3 – would be the only television stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to sign on for the next six years as the FCC had instituted a four-year freeze on any new applications for television station licenses in November 1948.
Belo ownership and ABC affiliation
Lacy-Potter Television Broadcasting lost a net revenue of $128,020 during its four-month stewardship of KBTV, leading Tom Potter to decide to put the station up for sale. The A.H. Belo Corporation, owner of The Dallas Morning News, had attempted to launch a new television station in Dallas on VHF channel 12 two years earlier, when it applied for a construction permit to build transmitter and broadcasting facilities for its proposed station; the FCC rejected Belo's application and eventually chose to reassign the Channel 12 allocation to Waco. Complicating matters, in November 1948, the agency instituted a moratorium on any new license applications by prospective television station owners in order to sort out the backlog of applicants that already filed to build such operations; the recourse Belo was left with if it wanted to own a television station in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was to acquire one that was already on the air.
In January 1950, Belo purchased KBTV from Lacy-Potter for $575,000; the sale received FCC approval on March 13, 1950, with Belo formally assuming control of Channel 8 on March 17. The station was the first television property to be owned by the Dallas-based company, and also served as the flagship station of its broadcasting division until Belo merged with the Gannett Company in 2013. Four days later on March 21, Belo changed the station's call letters to WFAA-TV to match those of its new radio partner WFAA (570 AM, now KLIF). The WFAA calls reportedly stood for "Working For All Alike," although the radio station later billed itself as the "World's Finest Air Attraction" (the KBTV call letters were later used from 1953 to 1983 by what is now present-day sister station KUSA in Denver, Colorado, and are currently used by a Fox-affiliated television station in Beaumont). WFAA is one of a relatively limited number of broadcast television stations located west of the Mississippi River whose call letters begin with a "W"; the FCC normally assigns call signs prefixed with a "K" to television and radio stations with cities of license located west of the river and broadcast call signs prefixed with a "W" to stations located east of the river. The anomaly in the case of the WFAA television and radio stations is due to the fact the policy predates the launch of the former, as Dallas was originally located east of the original "K"/"W" border distinction defined by the FCC.
In 1950, WFAA switched its primary affiliation to NBC, and also affiliated with ABC on a secondary basis. DuMont shut down in 1955 after various issues that arose from its relations with Paramount. Although it had been apparent from the start that Dallas and Fort Worth (which Arbitron originally designated as separate media markets) were going to be collapsed into a single television market due to their close proximity, Fort Worth Star-Telegram owner Amon G. Carter – who founded WBAP-TV through his company, Carter Publications – did not care whether residents in Dallas could view that station; WFAA affiliated with NBC under a time share arrangement with WBAP-TV to expand coverage of the network's programming to areas of central and eastern Dallas County that only received rimshot coverage of the Channel 5 signal.
In early 1957, NBC threatened to strip WBAP-TV of its affiliation if it did not agree to move its transmitter eastward to reach the entire Dallas area. Belo had attempted to get an exclusive NBC affiliation first, approached the network with an offer to make WFAA its exclusive affiliate for the entire market. The network also approached NAFI Telecasting Corporation about affiliating with independent station KFJZ-TV (channel 11, now CBS owned-and-operated station KTVT), which had earlier moved its transmitter to the antenna farm in Cedar Hill. Carter eventually agreed to NBC's demands that it move WBAP-TV's transmitter facilities to Cedar Hill, installing a transmitter antenna on a 1,500-foot (460 m) candelabra tower that was already shared by WFAA and KRLD-TV and operate it at a higher effective radiated power powerful enough to adequately cover Dallas. WFAA lost its NBC affiliation on September 1, 1957, as the network had awarded WBAP-TV the exclusive affiliation for the Dallas-Fort Worth market as a byproduct of the transmitter relocation and signal boost; this left Channel 8 as an exclusive affiliate of ABC.
Channel 8 became known for its heavy schedule of local programs during the 1950s through the 1980s. The most popular was a show aimed at younger audiences; Jerry Haynes hosted a local children's program on the station on-and-off from 1961 to 1996. Originally debuting in March 1961 as Mr. Peppermint, Haynes (who donned a red- and white-striped jacket and straw hat in his portrayal of the titular character, accompanied by a candy-striped cane) starred alongside a variety of puppet characters (performed by Vern Dailey) and presented various segments from educational content to cartoon shorts; five years after ending its original nine-year run on WFAA in 1970, the program was revived as the half-hour magazine-style educational series Peppermint Place in 1975, running for 21 additional years – expanding into syndication for its final seven – until the program ended its collective 30-year run in July 1996. Other notable WFAA local productions included the music series The Group And Chapman and its progenitor Sump'n Else (both of which were hosted by Ralph Baker Jr. and Ron Chapman), Dallas Bandstand (also hosted by Haynes), lifestyle and fashion talk program The Julie Bennell Show (hosted by Dallas Morning News food editor Julie Bunnell), the viewer Q&A series Let Me Speak to the Manager (originally titled Ask the Manager and later named Inside Television for the final four years of its run, co-hosted by Belo vice president Myron "Mike" Shapiro), and local versions of the Dialing for Dollars and PM Magazine franchises. Channel 8 also served as the original Dallas-Fort Worth home of the magazine series Texas Country Reporter, after host Bob Phillips, who originated it on KDFW in September 1972 as the locally produced 4 Country Reporter, sold the series into regional syndication (airing on WFAA under the title 8 Country Reporter) in 1986.
In 1958, WFAA became the first television station in the market to use a videotape recorder for broadcasting purposes; the station would gradually shift much of its locally produced programming from a live to a pre-recorded format, outside of newscasts, sports and special events, and eventually became one of the first television stations in the U.S. to convert its news footage to videotape in the 1970s. During the 1958–59 television season, WFAA served as the taping location for Jack Wyatt's ABC true crime reality series, Confession, in which assorted criminals explained why they chose to reject the mores of society and turn to crime.
The station's operations were relocated on April 2, 1961 to the WFAA Communications Center Studios, a state-of-the-art broadcasting complex located at Young and Record Streets in downtown Dallas; the former studio facilities on Harry Hines Boulevard were subsequently purchased by North Texas Public Broadcasting, for use as the broadcasting facilities for educational station KERA-TV (channel 13, now a PBS member station). The Communications Center complex housed three production studios, offices and sound recording studios for the WFAA radio stations as well as The Dallas Morning News' headquarters. The first live telecast to originate from the building was Young America Speaks, a 13-week intercollegiate debate tournament series (the first such program ever televised), which aired until June of that year. In 1974, Texas State Sen. Jim Wade filed a motion to the FCC, challenging Belo's renewal application for the Channel 8 license and strip it of rights to operate WFAA; Wade's efforts, in which he also attempted to convince the FCC to award the television station's license to him, would prove unsuccessful as the agency chose to approve renewal of the existing license owned by Belo.
Over time, Belo gradually expanded its television broadcasting unit. The company acquired its second television station in 1969, when its purchase of KFDM-TV in Beaumont from Beaumont Broadcasting, later followed in 1980 by its purchase of WTVC in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Among its purchases in later years, Belo acquired the Corinthian Broadcasting subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet in December 1983, adding six additional stations – including CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston – to its portfolio (forcing the respective sales of KFDM and WTVC to Freedom Communications, and of WISH-TV in Indianapolis and WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana to LIN Broadcasting, to comply with FCC ownership limits); and added ten additional stations through its 1997 merger acquisition of the Providence Journal Company. By 1999, when it purchased ABC affiliate KVUE in Austin from the Gannett Company, Belo owned television stations in Texas' four largest television markets (WFAA, KHOU, KVUE and CBS affiliate KENS in San Antonio).
In May 1984, WFAA debuted one of the most successful station image campaigns in the United States with the launch of the "Spirit of Texas", which was created in commemoration of the forthcoming 1986 sesquicentennial of Texas' entry into statehood; the promotions aired as part of the campaign focused on the region's cultural heritage, accompanied by an imaging theme written by James R. Kirk of TM Productions, who composed it as part of an associated music package that was used for the station's newscasts until 1991. All of the news themes that WFAA commissioned afterward had carried the TM Productions theme's seven-note musical signature (including the "WFAA 1992 News Theme" from 1992 to 1996; "The Spirit" from 1996 to 2000, the "Custom WFAA-TV News Package" from 2000 to 2004, a variation of Arnold's "News Matrix" from 2004 to 2005 and "Evolution" from 2004 to 2007 – all four of which were composed by McKinney-based Stephen Arnold Music; and the 615 Music-composed "Propulsion" from 2006 to 2014). The "Spirit" image campaign and/or slogan was also adapted by some of its Belo-owned sister stations (such as KHOU in Houston, KIII in Corpus Christi, WVEC in Norfolk, WWL-TV in New Orleans and KXTV in Sacramento) and by television stations owned by other companies, sometimes in conjunction with its accompanying theme (KHOU used the original TM-composed theme from 1986 to 1989, with the themes it used until 2014 also incorporating the "Spirit" signature including the custom John Hegner-composed "American Spirit", which was used from 1994 to 2000). WFAA discontinued the signature after three decades on August 27, 2014, when it switched to Gari Media Group's standardized package for Gannett's stations, "This is Home" (the station's news graphics and imaging were also overhauled to match Gannett's mandated look at that time); however, the station's longtime "Spirit of Texas" slogan is still used sparingly in some on-air promotions.
On January 14, 1987, the Hill Tower transmitter facility in Cedar Hill (which was jointly owned by WFAA and KDFW) was struck by a Navy F-4 Phantom as it was performing training exercises while on approach to the Dallas Naval Air Station. The jet clipped several guy-wires, however, its two occupants had ejected themselves from the aircraft and parachuted to the ground before it crashed. The tower consortium between the two stations decided to have a new 1,400 feet (430 m)-tall tower constructed a 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) southwest of the original facility, which was completed in 1989. The candelabra mast that encompassed the upper 281 feet (86 m) of the former tower, meanwhile, was dismantled (reducing its height to 1,240 feet (380 m)), with new transmitters installed to serve as auxiliary facilities for WFAA, KDFW and radio stations KJMZ (100.3 FM, now KJKK), KMEZ (107.5 FM, now KMVK), KQZY (105.3 FM, now KRLD-FM), KKDA-FM (104.5) and KMGC (102.9 FM, now KDMX).
In April 1998, when KTEN (which had been affiliated with ABC on a part-time basis since its sign-on in 1956) disaffiliated from the network, WFAA began serving as a default ABC station for areas near and south of the Red River within the adjacent Sherman-Ada market – including Ardmore, Gainesville, Durant and Hugo, Oklahoma – through its existing availability on most cable providers in the region (KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City served as the primary default affiliate for the northern counties of the DMA in south-central Oklahoma). However, residents in extreme North Texas could view most ABC programs that were pre-empted by KTEN via WFAA for several years beforehand, particularly after the former switched to a primary NBC affiliation in 1986 (steadily reducing ABC-provided content on its schedule to select daytime and prime time programs by 1994, when it added an additional secondary affiliation with Fox). The market would regain an ABC station of its own when KTEN launched an digital subchannel affiliated with the network on May 1, 2010. Despite this, WFAA remains available on some cable providers in the southern half of the market; Cable One, however, removed the station from its Sherman and Denison systems on February 26, 2015, due to a clause in its retransmission agreement with KTEN that precluded it from carrying any other ABC stations from nearby markets.
On January 1, 1999, Belo launched Texas Cable News (TXCN), a statewide cable news channel that initially featured rolling news, weather, and sports content as well as public affairs, sports-talk and entertainment news programs, utilizing staff and resources from WFAA and sister stations KVUE, KHOU and KENS, and The Dallas Morning News. TXCN switched to a format primarily consisting of repackaged newscasts featuring segments seen on each of Belo's Texas-based stations, and in-house weather segments on January 1, 2005, citing limited cable distribution in Texas' largest television markets for the format change that resulted in the layoffs of 45 of the channel's employees; following its acquisition of Belo, the Gannett Company shut down TXCN on May 1, 2015.
On July 20, 2005, Belo announced that it had reached an agreement with real estate developer Hillwood Capital to build a secondary studio facility in the eastern tower of the Plaza Towers complex then under construction in the Victory Park development at the corner of Olive and Houston Streets (adjacent to the American Airlines Center). The 5,000-square-foot (0.11-acre) facility, which opened in January 2007, incorporates a street-level studio where most of the station's news programming (with the exception of the 10:00 p.m. newscast) and the local talk show Good Morning Texas is produced, and houses news production staff and engineering operations; initially, the building also housed certain operations run by Belo's other Dallas-based properties, including its publishing division. The WFAA Communications Center continues to house the station's newsroom and most other business operations (including its master control, traffic, advertising and programming departments).
On October 1, 2007, Belo announced plans to split off its broadcasting and newspaper interests into two independent companies. WFAA would remain with the broadcasting entity, which retained the Belo Corporation name and was structured as the legal successor to the previous company, while the newspaper division (which in addition to The Dallas Morning News, included among other publications Al Día, Neighborsgo and Quick) was spun off into the similarly named, shareholder-held entity A. H. Belo Corporation (the name used by the original company from 1865 to 2001). The split – which was completed on February 8, 2008 – ended the joint ownership of WFAA television and The News after 59 years, becoming the last of the three newspaper/television broadcasting combinations in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to be separated into different companies (KXAS-TV was co-owned with the Star-Telegram from September 1948 until Carter Publications sold the former two properties and radio stations WBAP (820 AM) and KSCS (96.3 FM) to separate companies in 1974, while KDFW was co-owned with the now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald from December 1949 until the Times-Mirror Company sold the latter to the MediaNews Group in 1986). However, WFAA and The News continued to maintain a news content partnership through the end of 2013, at which time the newspaper entered into a collaborative agreement with KXAS-TV.
On June 13, 2013, the Gannett Company announced that it would acquire Belo for $1.5 billion (the purchase price would increase to $2.2 billion by the merger's completion). The deal was granted FCC approval on December 20, and was finalized on December 23. Through the merger with Gannett, WFAA became the company's largest television station by market size (supplanting CBS-affiliated sister station WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., which has been owned by the company since 1986); it also marked channel 8's first ownership change in 63 years. Additionally in July 2014, WFAA gained new sister stations in nearby markets – including NBC affiliate KCEN-TV in Waco and its Bryan semi-satellite KAGS-LD, CBS affiliate KYTX in Tyler and Fox affiliates KXVA in Abilene and KIDY in San Angelo – through Gannett's purchase of six television stations owned by the Dallas-based London Broadcasting Company, which based its portfolio of broadcasting properties exclusively within Texas (independent station KTXD-TV (channel 47) in nearby Greenville was one of two stations that London exempted from the deal, along with MeTV affiliate KCEB in Tyler, although FCC ownership regulations did not play a factor in the case of KTXD and WFAA as the Dallas-Fort Worth market had enough full-power television stations to allow a fourth duopoly).
On August 5, 2014, Gannett announced that it would split its broadcast and print media properties into separate publicly traded companies. Once the corporate separation was finalized on June 29, 2015, WFAA became part of Tegna, which was structured as the legal successor of the old Gannett and assumed ownership of the original company's non-publishing assets (including the broadcasting unit and most of its digital media properties); the Gannett Company, meanwhile, was re-established as a new company absolved of all existing debt that retained its predecessor's newspapers and select digital assets not acquired by Tegna.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||1080i||16:9||WFAA||Main WFAA programming / ABC|
|8.2||480i||WFAA-2||The Local AccuWeather Channel|
The station is one of a handful of ABC affiliates that transmits its main channel in the 1080i high definition resolution format; most of ABC's other owned-and-operated stations and affiliates transmit the digital feed assigned to carry the network's programming in 720p, the resolution designated by The Walt Disney Company as the HD format for ABC and its other American television properties.
WFAA launched a digital subchannel on virtual channel 8.2 as a locally programmed format under the name "Xpress 8.2". The service, which was later renamed "News 8 Now" (which the station also used as the branding for promotional content for the station's newscasts starting in 1996), featured weather radar imagery, regular news updates and occasional live programming (including content from ABC News Now), as well as a ticker that displayed local and national headlines. The subchannel was also used to air special programming; in particular, WFAA-DT2 was used to relay wall-to-wall coverage from its sister stations during hurricane season. from New Orleans sister station WWL-TV for Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008; and Houston sister station KHOU for Hurricane Ike in 2008. In addition to the weather radar feed, it also carried an audio simulcast of local NOAA Weather Radio station KEC56, with fellow NOAA stations KEC55 in Fort Worth and KXI87 in Corsicana used as alternate feeds. On April 30, 2011, the subchannel became an affiliate of The Local AccuWeather Channel.
WFAA launched a tertiary digital subchannel on virtual channel 8.3 on November 1, 2008 as a charter affiliate of This TV. WFAA-DT3 disaffiliated from the film-focused network on November 8, 2010, when the subchannel became an affiliate of the lifestyle-formatted Live Well Network as a result of a group affiliation agreement between Belo and network parent Disney-ABC Television Group (This TV moved its Dallas affiliation to KDAF (channel 33) on December 7, 2010, when that station began carrying it on digital subchannel 33.3 through the network's affiliation deal with Tribune Broadcasting, which acquired 50% of the network in November 2013). On January 20, 2015, the subchannel became a charter affiliate of the Justice Network, which replaced Live Well on many of the Gannett Company's television stations after Disney-ABC chose to relegate distribution of the latter to ABC's owned-and-operated stations.
WFAA became the first television station in the United States to broadcast their digital television signal on a VHF channel on February 27, 1998 at 2:17 p.m., when it began test broadcasts on VHF channel 9; the following day on February 28, it became the nation's first television station to broadcast a local news program in high definition. When the transmission tests began, the digital feed's Channel 9 assignment was already in use by Dallas area hospitals; this would result in Baylor University Medical Center and Methodist Dallas Medical Center having to reconfigure their telemetry systems to different frequencies before WFAA began full-time digital transmissions on March 16 (when it became the country's first commercial station to begin regular digital broadcasts on the VHF band) as the station's assigned digital channel corresponded to a portion of the broadcast spectrum utilized by the hospitals for their wireless medical equipment, creating RF interference issues that notably disrupted several wireless heart monitors at both facilities.
WFAA shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, at 12:03 p.m. on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal relocated from VHF channel 9, where it transmitted during the transition period, to former analog channel 8. Immediately before WFAA ceased transmission of its analog signal, the station aired a retrospective of its history that was narrated by meteorologist Pete Delkus, which was followed by a video of the sign-off that the station had aired at the conclusion of its broadcast day during the 1970s.
On December 23, 2009, WFAA filed an application to the FCC to obtain permission to increase its transmitter's effective radiated power (ERP) from 45 kW through an omni-directional antenna to 55 kW, through the installation of a directional antenna. The reasoning behind its proposal for the power increase was due to difficulties that some viewers watching the over-the-air in portions of the Dallas-Fort Worth market had experienced in trying to receive the station's signal on channel 8.
Syndicated programs broadcast by WFAA (as of September 2015) include Inside Edition, The Insider, Scandal, FABLife and Entertainment Tonight. The station also produces the talk and lifestyle program Good Morning Texas, which airs weekday mornings at 9:00 a.m.; the hour-long program, which debuted on September 12, 1994 under original hosts Scott Sams and Deborah Duncan, served as the basis for other similarly formatted local late-morning talk shows that debuted on its sister stations under Belo ownership in subsequent years.
Channel 8 held the local syndication rights to the game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune for several years starting in the early 1980s. After spending eighteen years in the 6:30 p.m. slot, WFAA dropped Wheel, as well as Jeopardy!, from its schedule in the fall of 2005. Both series moved to KTVT, with the former being replaced by Entertainment Tonight, which prior to the change, Channel 8 had aired following Nightline since it acquired the rights to ET from KDFW in September 1984 (currently, the Dallas-Fort Worth market is one of the few in which Wheel and Jeopardy! air on separate stations, as the latter program eventually moved to KTXA (channel 21) in 2013).
WFAA carries the majority of the ABC network schedule; however, as an affiliate that is not owned by the network itself, WFAA may occasionally preempt some of the network's prime time shows to run locally produced specials. ABC programs that were preempted or otherwise interrupted by breaking news or severe weather coverage are tape delayed to air in overnight timeslots, although station personnel gives viewers the option to watch the affected shows the following day on the Watch ABC streaming platforms. Historically, the station has either pre-empted certain network programs or aired them out of pattern. Under the stewardship of general manager Mike Shapiro during the 1960s and 1970s, WFAA pre-empted certain theatrical and made-for-television films aired by ABC which management deemed too risque for broadcast; beginning in 1970, it was one of a handful of ABC stations that did not carry American Bandstand, opting to air public service programming instead. It also pre-empted Good Morning America for the first five months of its run from November 1975 to March 1976, in favor of the existing local morning program The AM Show (GMA's short-lived predecessor AM America was also not cleared throughout its run from January to November 1975). WFAA was the largest ABC affiliate to pre-empt the first two seasons of NYPD Blue (which aired in Dallas/Ft. Worh on KTXA) due to concerns over content, replacing it with "Good Evening Texas," an extension of "Good Morning Texas." It was also among the more than 20 ABC-affiliated stations that declined to air the network's telecast of Saving Private Ryan in November 2004, due to concerns over possible fines over the intense war violence and strong profanity in the film that ABC opted against editing out of the broadcast amid the FCC's crackdown on indecent material following the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy.
Because of its hour-long midday newscast – which airs at 12:00 p.m. – WFAA has aired programming scheduled during that hour nationally on a day-behind basis at 11:00 a.m.: All My Children aired in that slot until September 27, 2011, when it was replaced by current 11:00 a.m. slotholder The Chew. Following the midday newscast's expansion into an hour-long broadcast in September 1992, WFAA aired the soap opera Loving, which many ABC stations in the Central Time Zone normally aired during the 12:30 p.m. half-hour on a day-behind basis until the program (by that time, reformatted as The City) was cancelled in 1996; for similar reasons, it also carried Port Charles on Tuesday through Saturday early-mornings throughout that soap's run from 1997 to 2004.
Until it was discontinued by ABC in September 2011, WFAA aired several programs within the ABC Kids Saturday morning block significantly out of pattern. A double run of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers aired on a one-week delay from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. until ABC dropped the program on August 28, 2010, instead of the network's "live"-fed slot of 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Emperor's New School and The Replacements aired during the 11:00 a.m. hour instead on a three-hour delay from its recommended 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. timeslot; the remaining two hours aired in pattern "live" from the ABC feed. The station now carries the Litton's Weekend Adventure block on a one-hour delay from its "live feed", due the Saturday edition of News 8 Daybreak. Until September 12, 2011, WFAA aired Jimmy Kimmel Live! a half-hour later than its then-recommended 11:00 p.m. Central timeslot, due to syndicated programs that the station aired in the timeslot. The station currently airs This Week on a half-hour delay as its Sunday morning newscast runs for 90 minutes and airs the Saturday edition of Good Morning America one hour earlier than most ABC stations (airing it at 6:00 a.m. via the live Eastern Time Zone feed rather than on tape delay).
WFAA presently broadcasts 36 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 6½ hours on weekdays, 3½ hours on Saturdays and 2½ hours on Sundays). In addition, the station produces two Sunday evening sports programs: the highlight program Dale Hansen's Sports Special (hosted by longtime sports director Dale Hansen, who joined the station from KDFW in March 1983), and High School Sports Special (hosted by weekend sports anchor Joe Trahan and airing during the school year). WFAA also operates a news helicopter, HD Chopper 8 (formerly known as Telecopter 8), which still features the 1984 to 1996 dual-outlined "8" logo on its underside. The station maintains bureaus in Collin County at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, and in Tarrant County near downtown Fort Worth; both bureaus house a limited staff of reporters, but are rarely used for filming. WFAA is one of the few television stations that does not use the First Warning broadcast weather alert system; a text display of the warning type and the affected counties is instead shown at the top of the screen when severe weather alerts are in effect for the viewing area.
Channel 8 had been the ratings leader among the television newscasts in the Dallas-Fort Worth market for much of its history. WFAA's 10:00 p.m. newscast, known as The News 8 Update from 1980 to 2013, is typically the market's most-watched late evening newscast, and its 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts are typically the area's most-watched early evening local newscasts. However, the station's ratings have suffered in recent years, particularly among adults between the ages of 25 and 54 due to competition from Fox owned-and-operated station KDFW as well as improving viewership since the late 2000s for CBS owned-and-operated station KTVT's newscasts; WFAA's 10:00 p.m. newscast slid from first place for the November 2010 sweeps to a relatively distant second during the February 2011 sweeps period with total viewers and with adults 25-54 (its first fall from first place in that slot as well as at 6:00 p.m. in total viewers for the first time in at least three decades). WFAA's only #1 finish during the latter period was at 5:00 p.m. in total viewers (it lost to KDFW in the adult 25-54 demographic), aided by its Oprah lead-in. The station was in last place overall in among adults 25 to 54 for the first time in at least 30 years. During the May 2011 sweeps period, the 10:00 p.m. news regained its position as the market's #1 late newscast in total viewers and adults 25-54; its morning newscast placed third in both demographics, while the 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts placed first in the early evening slot (aided by the outgoing Oprah) in total viewers and second (behind KDFW) in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic.
WFAA was the first station to break the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, which occurred about two blocks north of the station's studios near Dealey Plaza, outside the Texas School Book Depository, and seriously injured then-Governor John Connally (who was riding in the motorcade carrying Kennedy). The station conducted the first live television interview with Abraham Zapruder, who shot the famous film of the assassination. During the course of the interview with Zapruder, who came to the Communications Center studio by police escort, WFAA announcer and program director, Jay Watson (who reported on the shooting with Jerry Haynes, both of whom heard the gunshots being fired at Kennedy), intimated that the film was to be developed in the station's film lab; however, WFAA did not possess the ability to process the Kodachrome II 8 mm safety film from Zapruder's camera. WFAA and its live remote unit fed much of the coverage of the assassination and its aftermath to ABC over the next four days. The shooting of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in the basement of Dallas police headquarters, however, was not broadcast live (as it was on NBC) or on tape (as on CBS one minute later) by WFAA and ABC as the former's live newsgathering truck was positioned elsewhere at the time. ABC was therefore only able to show delayed newsreel footage of the historic event. WFAA had purchased a fully equipped, live broadcast studio truck prior to the assassination of Kennedy, but the truck was not rolled out for the parade through downtown Dallas. In the aftermath of the murder, the staff was told the cost would have been too great for the news department to compensate the production facility for its use.
As local television news grew into a more polished presentation, WFAA became known for groundbreaking achievements and reporting in broadcast journalism as well as for many technological advancements including the first computerized newsroom; and being the first station in the market to deploy a helicopter and live trucks for field newsgathering, to use microwave transmission for live broadcast and the use of satellite uplink trucks for broadcasts from around Texas and the nation. WFAA was the first U.S. television station to make use of international satellite capacity, broadcasting a live program (anchored by the late Murphy Martin) from Paris, France in 1969, consisting of interviews with wives of American POWs in Vietnam. It was perhaps the first in the nation to broadcast videotaped field reports (film was used almost exclusively in local news until the late 1970s and early 1980s), televising the arrival of President Richard Nixon at Dallas Love Field within 30 minutes of his plane's touchdown in 1969 (a Sony reel-to-reel video recorder made for home use was pressed into service for this broadcast presented on a regular, midnight newscast). WFAA uncovered significant stories in the 1980s including information of academic improprieties that would lead to the Southern Methodist University football team being given the "death penalty" in the mid-1980s, as well as the first major media investigation into the America's Savings & Loan scandal that was rooted in Texas.
WFAA-TV began its rise to news dominance in Dallas during the late 1960s and early 1970s under the leadership of news manager Travis Linn, who had previously served as news director for WFAA radio. Linn later became Dallas bureau chief for CBS News before becoming professor and dean of the journalism program at the University of Nevada–Reno. Under Linn, the station expanded its news programming to 4½ hours per day, including an unprecedented one-hour program at 10:00 p.m. each weeknight as well as a 15-minute newscast at midnight four nights a week; the station also launched News 8 Etc., a 90-minute morning news-talk show that replaced the children's program Mr. Peppermint in January 1970 and was originally hosted by Suzie Humphreys and Don Harris, who conducted the broadcast without the assistance of cue cards or a TelePrompTer; following anchor Gene Thomas' death when a jet-powered dragster he was riding in for a story being produced for the show crashed at speeds of 286 miles per hour (460 km/h) at Dallas International Motor Speedway in October 1971, the program underwent several changes to its anchor team and was later retooled in May 1974 as The AM Show (later shortened to simply AM), before ending in January 1978.
Building its existing success, WFAA dominated the market's local news ratings from the mid-1970s through the late 1990s, with anchors including Tracy Rowlett (one of three reporters – along with Doug Fox and Byron Harris – whom news director Marty Haag brought over to WFAA from his previous job as news department head at KWTV in Oklahoma City in 1973), Iola Johnson (who became the first female and the first African American news anchor in Dallas in 1978, serving as a lead anchor with Rowlett), Bob Gooding, Murphy Martin, Judi Hanna, John Criswell, Chip Moody, John McCaa, Gloria Campos, Lisa McRee, Verne Lundquist, Dale Hansen and Troy Dungan (who, as chief weather anchor from 1977 to 2010, developed modern-day chroma key techniques for televised weather forecasts, the five-day forecast concept and created the "News 8 Doppler Net," a network of National Weather Service radar sites throughout Texas). Other notable people who once worked at Channel 8 include Scott Pelley (now anchor of the CBS Evening News), the late David Garcia (who went on to become a network reporter for ABC News), Mike Lee (who covered news in Europe for many years at ABC News' London bureau), Doug Terry (who became a founding reporter/producer at NPR's All Things Considered and created several Washington-based television news services), and the late Don Harris (who, while working for NBC News at the time, was killed at the start of the Jonestown massacre and mass suicides in Guyana in 1978).
Channel 8's approach to news during this period was characterized by an aggressive, all-out commitment to get the story and to present it in graphic, visual detail. The station was rewarded with some of the highest ratings of any local station in a major media market. A standard practice was to have each reporter cover only one beat, such as Dallas City Hall or the Dallas County Commission, making the reporter an expert on the subject that he or she was covering. Former news director H. Martin "Marty" Haag is credited with leading the station's news department to ratings dominance and national prominence, as well as convincing the Dallas Morning News ownership to allow much greater spending on news at WFAA than ever seen before, far surpassing the budgets of other local rival stations. Haag was honored with a special Lifetime Achievement George Foster Peabody Award shortly before his death in 2004. The station resumed a local morning newscast in 1987, when it launched the initially 60-minute traditional news program News 8 Daybreak (which evolved out of local news inserts that it aired during World News This Morning). WFAA pioneered community outreach in 1977 with the "Wednesday's Child" series of feature segments, which profiled children in need of an adoptive family and was descended from a feature segment on News 8 Etc.; the current iteration was initially conducted by John Criswell during his stint as co-host of the retooled AM, before becoming a weekly feature on WFAA's 10:00 p.m. newscast in September 1980. In 1994, the station began conducting town hall meetings all over north Texas through its Family First (F1) initiative, which remains a significant part of the station's commitment to community service.
Since 1986, WFAA's news department has won six Peabody Awards, with a seventh awarded personally to Marty Haag, WFAA's executive news director from 1973 to 1989 and vice president of news operations for Belo Corporation afterward. WFAA was honored with Peabody Awards in 1986 (for an investigative report that led to the Southern Methodist University Mustangs' "death penalty" sanction by the NCAA), 1995 (for The Peavy Investigation, a "revealing series of reports into insurance purchases involving the Dallas Independent School District[...] centered on the chairman of the Board of Education's Committee on Insurance"), 2002 (for the investigative report series Fake Drugs, Real Lives, about confidential informants who worked with Dallas police that planted powdered Sheetrock or billiard chalk near unsuspecting Mexican immigrants to "contrive drug cases"), 2004 (for State of Denial, a long-running series into improprieties in the Texas Workers Compensation Commission, part of the Texas Department of Insurance), 2007 (for four separate investigative stories: Money for Nothing, about a major U.S. financial institution that made loans to non-existent companies in Mexico; "The Buried and the Dead", on the safety issues of pipelines carrying gas into homes; "Television Justice", about regional law-enforcement officers who collaborated with news crews to produce a prime time television program; and "Kinder Prison", on the deplorable conditions at a juvenile detention facility) and 2010 (for "Bitter Lessons," an investigation into government-funded career schools). The station has also has been recognized with several national Edward R. Murrow Awards and eight duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons.
Coinciding with the commencement of local programming production at the Plaza Towers studios in Victory Park, WFAA began broadcasting its newscasts and other local programs in high definition on February 2, 2007, becoming the first television station in the Dallas-Fort Worth market to begin broadcasting their newscasts in the format on a regular basis. Initially, all footage shot in-studio was broadcast in high definition, while all news video from on-remote locations was upconverted in standard definition.
In 2009, WFAA became the first local station to receive the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award's Gold Baton, for its commitment to investigative journalism; reporters Byron Harris and Brett Shipp were recognized for investigative reports about corruption and waste at the Export-Import Bank of the United States, grade changing for failing high school athletes (among the Dallas Independent School District high schools exposed in that report were South Oak Cliff High School, and Roosevelt High School.) and dangers posed by aging gas pipeline couplings (an investigation that was featured on the PBS documentary series Exposé: America's Investigative Reports in the episode "Beneath the North Texas Dirt"). On September 12, 2013, WFAA debuted an hour-long weekday 4:00 p.m. newscast, which competes against existing hour-long newscasts in that slot KXAS and KTVT.
Notable current on-air staff
- Ron Corning – weekday morning anchor
- John McCaa – weeknight anchor; also reporter
- Pete Delkus (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) – chief meteorologist; weeknights
- Dale Hansen – sports director; weeknights; also host of Dale Hansen's Sports Special
Notable former on-air staff
- Ralph Baker Jr. – host of The Group And Chapman and Sump'n Else (1964–1970; was also at KLIF-AM during the same years; later with KRLD radio and KTEN in Sherman, Texas, also was a model for Sanger-Harris and the Kim Dawson Agency)
- Julie Bologna – weekend morning meteorologist (2011–2016)
- Ron Chapman – host of The Group And Chapman and Sump'n Else (1964–1968; was simultaneously with KLIF-AM during that period, left WFAA for KVIL)
- Aaron Chimbel – mobile journalist (2006–2009; now a journalism professor at Texas Christian University)
- Lin Sue Cooney – anchor/reporter (1980–1984; now at KPNX in Phoenix)
- Troy Dungan – chief weathercaster (1976–2007; later at KTXD-TV as co-host of The Texas Daily)
- Bill Evans – meteorologist (1987–1989; now at WABC-TV in New York City)
- Shon Gables – Daybreak weekend co-anchor (2010–2014)
- Chris Gailus – Daybreak co-anchor (2000–2003; now at CHAN-DT in Vancouver)
- David Garcia – weekend anchor/reporter (1965–1968; later with ABC and KPSP-TV in Palm Springs, California; deceased)
- Leeza Gibbons – reporter/co-host of PM Magazine (early 1980s)
- Don Harris – reporter/anchor (1967–?; became a reporter for NBC News, was killed in Guyana in 1978)
- Brad Hawkins – Daybreak anchor (now with Southwest Airlines)
- Jerry Haynes – host of Peppermint Place, (the WFAA-produced local morning show) The Early Show, Dallas Bandstand and The Julie Bennell Show (1949–1970 and 1975–1996)
- Ed Hogan - Starting in 1950 he worked at WFAA-A/DALLAS, where he hosted several shows for three years before moving into sales. In 1955 he moved to WFAA-TV, where he served as announcer and host of "DIALING FOR DOLLARS."
- Jackie Hyland – Daybreak anchor/reporter (2005–2007; now an anchor at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina)
- Iola Johnson – anchor (1973–1985; last with KTXA as host of Positively Texas)
- Charlie Jones - sports director (?-1965; also with ABC Sports at the time; later with NBC Sports, died on June 15, 2008)
- Andrea Joyce – sports reporter (1987–1988; later with ESPN, CBS Sports and NBC Sports)
- Verne Lundquist – sports anchor/host of Bowling for Dollars (1967–1983; now at CBS Sports)
- Bill Macatee – sports anchor (now at CBS Sports)
- Lisa McRee – anchor/reporter (1989–1991)
- Don Meredith – sports reporter (1966; later at CBS Sports and ABC Sports; died on December 5, 2010)
- Russ Mitchell – anchor (1983–1985; now at WKYC in Cleveland)
- Bill O'Reilly – reporter (now at Fox News Channel as host of The O'Reilly Factor)
- Scott Pelley – reporter (1982–1989; now at CBS News as anchor of the CBS Evening News)
- Uma Pemmaraju – reporter (now anchor at Fox News Channel)
- Pablo Pereira – meteorologist (now with KTTV in Los Angeles)
- Robyne Robinson – reporter (1985–1987; last at KMSP-TV in Minneapolis)
- Dan Ronan – reporter (2003–2007; now senior director of communications at the American Bus Association in Washington D.C.)
- Tracy Rowlett – anchor (1974–1999; later at KTXD-TV as co-host of The Texas Daily)
- Rene Syler – anchor/reporter (1992–1997; left for KTVT, last with CBS News as co-anchor of The Early Show)
- Doug Terry – reporter/anchor (1966–1970; a founding reporter/producer at NPR in Washington, D.C., writer, technologist, photographer, poet)
- Wes Wise – sports anchor (1950s; later mayor of Dallas from 1971 to 1976)
- Paula Zahn – reporter (1978–1979; later went to CNN)
WFAA (AM), which would eventually serve as the sister radio station to WFAA television, first signed on the air on June 26, 1922. The station had long participated in a time-sharing arrangement with Fort Worth radio station WBAP, which was maintained as the latter operated at various frequencies; it originally began in 1922, when WBAP (which first went on the air nine weeks before WFAA began operations, on May 2 of that year) transmitted at 630 kHz and continued until 1927, before resuming when that station moved to 800 kHz in 1929 and settling when WBAP moved its current frequency at 820 kHz in 1941. In 1947, WFAA and WBAP began time-sharing on a second frequency, 570 kHz, which was formerly occupied by KGKO. Until WFAA (AM) began to transmit full-time on 570 kHz in 1970, WBAP and WFAA were engaged in the somewhat bizarre situation of having to switch back and forth between the 570 and 820 frequencies at various times of the day: WBAP broadcast on 820 AM from midnight to 6:00 a.m., with WFAA taking over the frequency space until noon; WBAP returned to the 820 signal for a few hours, before WFAA once again took over the frequency. WFAA had control over 820 during prime evening hours, when the 50,000-watt clear channel signal could often be heard as far west as California and as far east as New York (at the time, there were significantly fewer radio stations that were operating at night, reducing the likelihood of interference).
WFAA was the first radio station in Texas to join a national network (becoming an affiliate of the NBC Red Network in 1927, four years after it agreed to join the network), co-founded the Texas Quality Network, and was the first Texas station to carry educational programs, to produce a serious radio drama series, to air a state championship football game and the first to broadcast an inaugural ceremony (that of Texas Governor Ross Sterling in 1931). The station's original on-air staff members and reporters consisted of columnists and editors employed with The Dallas Morning News. WFAA (AM) was home to the long-running morning program, The Early Birds, hosted by John Allen (and which was one of the early appearances by Dale Rogers, who would later go on to star in several western films with actor husband Roy Rogers); as well as programs such as the gospel music series Hymns We Love; music programs Saturday Night Shindig, The Big D Jamboree and Slo-and-Ezy; the agricultural news program Murray Cox RFD; and later, 57 Nostalgia Place. After maintaining an entertainment/variety format for many years, the station became a Middle of the Road (MOR) music station in 1970, before switching to a Top 40 format in 1973. On November 9, 1976, the station made its final format change, adopting a news and talk-based schedule (as "Newstalk 570").
WFAA (AM) was initially based its operations in a 9×9-ft tent on the roof of the Dallas Morning News' headquarters, before relocating to the newspaper's library. On October 1, 1925, it later moved to the 17th floor of the Baker Hotel at the southeast corner of Commerce and Akard Streets in downtown Dallas (which would be demolished in 1980), and then moved to facilities atop the Santa Fe Railroad Warehouse on Jackson Street on June 20, 1941 (the building still has the "WFAA" calls clearly painted along a panel on the top floor). On April 4, 1961, it moved to the WFAA Communications Center at Young and Record Streets. On July 2, 1983, its call letters were changed to KRQX.
WFAA-FM signed on October 5, 1946 as KERA-FM (it is not related to the current radio and television station using those call letters). It was the first FM radio station to sign on in Texas, although its roots can be traced back to two test stations that signed on years prior: an experimental trial that dated back to 1939, and experimental FM station W5X1C, which signed on October 15, 1945. By 1947, WFAA-FM had moved from its original frequency at 94.3 FM to a preferred location at 97.9. With FM broadcasting in its infancy, the station signed on and off the air for months – and even going silent for two years – at a time, before settling on a permanent broadcast schedule by 1965.
Initially acting as a simulcast of the AM station, WFAA-FM programmed a MOR and Beautiful Music format until 1973, when it changed to album oriented rock (AOR) under the call letters KZEW-FM (branded as "The Zoo") on September 16, 1973. The station's concept and programming were initially under the direction of Ira Lipson, who brought in talent such as John LaBella and John Rody ("LaBella and Rody"), George Gimarc, Charley Jones, Dave Lee Austin, John B. Wells, Doc Morgan, Nancy Johnson, John Dew, John Dillon and Tempie Lindsey (Wells and Morgan would later serve as the respective primary and secondary announcers for WFAA television from the 1980s to the early 2000s). The FM station shared facilities with WFAA-AM on the second floor of the Communications Center building. Belo sold both KRQX and KZEW-FM on January 1, 1987; the FM station has since changed its calls to KBFB and maintains an urban contemporary format.